24.11.2018

Why The Enneagram - Part 1 - My Story

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(Image by Julie Drew)

I’ve been trying to decide how to present the journey that led me to invest so much in learning and teaching the Enneagram, and I finally realized that the old adage, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” probably describes it best.  This makes the point that the Enneagram isn’t necessarily for everyone at every time in their lives, which was certainly true for me.  I think of times in my life when the Enneagram symbol alone would have turned me off and other times when I was just too busy to bother with it.   And the idea of being “ready” prompts me to consider what had changed in me and the ways in which I was ready for this new teacher.

Here are three major ways I was ready to learn and apply the teaching of the Enneagram

  1. I was seeking.  For better and worse I have always been a seeker.  I have always had some discontent with my present circumstances and looked for improvement.  I have always sought out new ideas and change.  Specifically, I was seeking help in understanding myself and understanding spiritual and personal growth.  This search began in earnest when, as a pastor, I realized I did not have a good understanding of spiritual maturity for my congregation or myself.  Soon after that I realized that such an understanding was something that I desperately needed.  I constantly struggled with my calling and vocation as a pastor. I realized I was playing a role and shutting down a deeper self within, but I had no idea how to stop it from happening.  My inner turmoil grew to a point that I thought it was best for the congregation and for myself to leave the pastorate, and I continued seeking in the area of spiritual formation.  My studies and work in spiritual formation eventually led me to enroll in a spiritual direction training course, and it was there I learned more about the Enneagram.
  1. I was open. In my twenties I looked for a strong, solid structure on which to base my life.  I wanted to know certainties and absolutes, right and wrong.  I went to a conservative church with a conservative pastor and tried to adhere to his teaching.  For me, at that time, Evangelical Christianity and the Bible were The Way, they had The Answers, and the rest of the world was secular, against God, and strongly influenced by evil.  I didn’t preach this to everyone, but this was the doctrine I was taught, the doctrine the leaders around me claimed to believe, and I strove to believe it, too. And it has always been very important to me to really try and live what I believe.  I didn’t think of myself as a fundamentalist, but I did try to talk my parents out of following a self-help program that I thought of as a cult, and we did homeschool our children partially for religious – don’t trust the world – type reasons.

    Ironically, it was probably that same desire within me for alignment, the desire to truly live what I believe, that led me away from conservative Christian doctrine and practice.  As we grow older, we gain more experience and our viewpoint gets larger.  And, as my viewpoint grew, I began to see how much of our Christianity, including our doctrine, is cultural, how much it can be simply about growing the church rather than growing people up as Christians, how Christians are often no different than the rest of the world in terms of behavior and attitudes, and how much emphasis is often put on looking good on the outside rather than real change and real life on the inside.

    This isn’t anything new, many have found similar issues in the Christian church.  It doesn’t mean that there isn’t, as well, much good and truth to be found in Christianity and Christian doctrine.  This didn’t cause me to turn away from Christianity, but it did dispel my idea that Evangelical Christianity had a corner on truth and goodness.   Today I am more open to finding truth and goodness wherever it shows up, rather than filtering it through a particular doctrinal lens.
  1. I was ready for a new way of living rather than just a new idea or new practice. This is where I needed to be before real change was going to happen in my lives.  The fact that I wasn’t yet at this point when I started looking into spiritual formation is likely the reason all the spiritual formation books I’ve studied in the last 10 years have seemed more like a buffet of different ideas, practices, and approaches than a diet designed to work with me and my life and personality.  In any case, by the time I had reached the Enneagram, I had finally stopped looking for the “key,” the idea or practice that would magically change everything for me.  I was more willing to accept that real growth meant real vulnerability and heart investment over a long period of time.  I was more willing to accept that it really is more about the journey than the destination.  And, more than anything else I have found, the Enneagram gives a map of what that journey can look like.  It helps us understand directions for moving forward and sign posts along the way.  More than different ideas or practices, it is a system that connects with all of our lives, so there are countless practices and ideas that can fit into it. 

It’s been about four years since I started working with the Enneagram, a good four years, and I deeply appreciate how it has helped me grow in my self-awareness and relationships.  It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but it has been good, and I am looking forward to the years to come.

Read 326 times Last modified on 24.11.2018

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